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There is no doubt that using colour and ornament is a basic form of creative self-expression. Even those cultures with the most limited resources manage to find ways of decorating their surroundings and possessions, and they do it in ways that are often exuberant and joyful. Yet in the developed world today only children seem to enjoy colour and pattern for their own sakes. As we grow older we become self-conscious about using them, perhaps out of fear of ridicule or in conforming to the outdated and inaccurate notion that modern means white and plain.
Although it is not always easy to ignore all those so-called rules for using colour and pattern, such as blue always being chilly and mixing no more than three patterns in one room, do try. Be guided by your likes and dislikes, and think about how you and others will be using the room. If it is to be used for relaxing in, and as’a foil for your favourite objects, a harmonious colour scheme and a relatively plain backdrop are probably in order. On the other hand, a room that is likely to bustle with activity all day, such as a tamily kitchen, needs to be bright and welcoming, but not so full of decorative distractions that it becomes tiring.
Take note also of the room’s position relative to the sun. Rooms that receive sunlight for long periods have a tendency to overheat in the warmer months, so you may want to include a touch of cool colour, such as a minty green or ultra-marine blue, in your scheme. Those rooms that get very little natural light will need brightening up; white is the most commonly used colour, but pale grey-blues and greens work just as well. And don’t forget you have other weapons in your decorative armoury; a cheerful rug and strategically placed mirrors will also help to brighten a dingy room.
There is no mystery to mixing colours, patterns and textures in a decorative scheme; it is all about creating contrasts of scale and proportion. Most co-ordinated fabric and wallpaper ranges are based on mixing large-scale patterns with small all-over motifs and plain colours, and these work best when one design plays the starring role and the rest are used in smaller quantities. The same applies when creating colour combinations. While a small amount of contrasting colour can liven up a scheme, living with large areas of competing colour soon becomes uncomfortable.
In general, decorative schemes that are composed of different tones of the same colour are the most harmonious and calming, while room schemes that contain contrasting colours tend to be livelier. If you bear this in mind, there is absolutely no reason at all why a room filled with both pattern and texture shouldn’t be relaxing and easy to live with, or why a room containing just a few carefully chosen objects shouldn’t be lively and inspiring. The secret is to experiment and not to be afraid to change your mind as you go along. You may not get exactly the effect you want immediately, but decorating would be no fun if it wasn’t a little bit unpredictable.